Vittles from the SFA Symposium

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After our search for the elusive hot tamale, we arrived in Oxford, Mississippi, home of Ole Miss and the Trent Lott Leadership Institute (yes, I walked by it every day, which only made a bad hangover worse). I started with a small lecture by Shirley Corriher, who spoke on the “Science Behind Crispy and Flaky.” Ms. Corriher gave a demonstration on making flaky biscuits, which were tasty but much more cake-like than flaky, but it was all fun nonetheless. I had the opportunity to spend some time with Ms. Corriher, who is as funny in person as she is on Alton Brown’s Good Eats. Heck, she and her husband Arch, a WWII veteran, would make a great vaudeville comedy act.

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Dinner was a fusion of Mexican and Southern foods: refried blackeyed peas, fried chicken tacos, and my favorite new drink: horchata laced with Jack Daniels. Oh my god, why hadn’t I ever thought of this combination before? It’s a Mexican milk punch! Of course, drinking 6 of these is hazardous to one’s health. Even more hazardous are the late night festivities that follow, typically in John Currence’s City Grocery.

Lots more after the break.

Saturday’s Tabasco Luncheon was all about sausage — boudin and Elgin Hot Guts, to be exact. Combined with coconut cupcakes from my “new best friend” Nancie McDermott‘s Southern Cakes, it was a wonderful repast on a cool sunny day. (And do buy Nancie’s cake book — it’s wonderful) Dinner that night was catfish. THE BEST CATFISH EVER! The Friday night catfish dinner at Taylor Grocery in nearby Taylor, Mississippi is the one event that really doesn’t change from year to year. You hop on a double decker bus (it’s always better on top) and ride for about 15 minutes to this middle-of-nowhere place that manages to crowd 250 of us into an old, rough-hewn, splintered, wood-floored country store. With appetizers from several top chefs and great music from the recently reunited Blue Mountain, this is my favorite meal each year. A lot of it has to do with riding on the bus, freezing your ass off, sharing the pain with 40 others, and getting to know them at the same time.

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Saturday breakfast was roasted peanuts and old fashioned Coca Colas, 8-ounce bottles made with cane sugar, not that ubiquitous corn syrup. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch all of the morning’s talks, as I had to get back to my hotel room for an urgent meeting with my pillow. Something about Currence buying me too many drinks in order to coerce me into getting him Duke-UNC tickets.

Lunch was a treat, starting with some Col. Newsom’s Aged Kentucky Country Ham, homemade bread and butter pickles, and boiled peanuts. We then had a great pate with pickled vegetables and beer mustard from Edward Lee of Louisville’s 610 Magnolia. Hugh Acheson of Athens, Georgia’s Five and Ten braised pig cheeks and served them with Anson Mills polenta, onion jam, pomegranate and pickled turnips. For dessert, Carrboro’s own April McGregor (former pastry chef at Lantern and now with her own venture, the Farmer’s Daughter) mad a sweet potato ginger crème caramel (using sweet potatoes from her daddy’s farm) and Moravian ginger snaps. If I can offer anyone a piece of advice, become friends with a pastry chef. It’ll make your life a lot happier.

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The Saturday night meal was a veritable Pig-palooza. Boudin balls from Donald Link. Pig ears by Frank Stitt. Ed Mitchell making chopped and pulled pork barbecue. Steven Barber had the nerve to make some lovely lamb. Accompanied by a much-needed vegetable plate from students from Culinard and capped off by some wacky peanut desserts by Sean Brock (peanut cotton candy, peanut marshmallows, and peanut butter and jelly sandwich “Dippin’ Dots” – Wonder Bread and all), this was a fantastic meal.

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The final repast was breakfast at City Grocery, and being able to sample Allan Benton’s bacon was phenomenal. Along with herb biscuits and grits served with an oyster-stew gravy and locally made sausage, you couldn’t have ended a festive weekend any better. Where do I sign up for next year??

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Boudin

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Drinks before catfish

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The best catfish ever.

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Phil Bey of Atlanta’s Bacchanalia serving a catfish ceviche.

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Catherine Lambrecht of the newly founded Midwestern Foodways Alliance rides the bus with Shirley Corriher.

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John T. Edge praying for good weather

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Mary Beth Lasseter praying for John T. It is the Bible belt, y’all.

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Great paté, Mom. Gotta motor.

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April McGregor, pastry chef extraordinaire.

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The Bacon Forest. This is what happens when people are completely obsessed with food.

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The mutton that dared be an interloper in a swine party.

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The veggie plate. When you’ve been eating mostly meat for a couple of days, vegetables are most welcomed.

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Sean Brock making a not so typical peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

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Chapel Hill’s “Cake Lady”, Nancie McDermott, enjoying some boiled peanut cotton candy

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3 Responses to Vittles from the SFA Symposium

  1. Joe says:

    If you could grow some spaghetti trees in the bacon forest, and you had a few hens nesting nearby — Bam! you could have spaghetti alla carbonara just that quick! Wait, I guess you need guanciale, or at least pancetta, instead of bacon. Oh well. 😉

  2. Chubbypanda says:

    Boo, Trent Lott! Yay, Shirley!

  3. trevor says:

    you guys are fat

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